Picture of the Day: An Early Version of Morse Code

0154d.jpg

How do you express the 26 letters of the alphabet with only the on/off sputtering of electrical current? James Gleick writes in his book The Information that solving that puzzle "taxed [Samuel F. B. Morse's] ingenuity more than any mechanical problem of the telegraph. It is fitting that history attached Morse's name to his code, more than to his device." Morse initially thought to send numbers, digit by digit, with each number corresponding to a word. Operators would have to look up each number in a special dictionary. Later he, along with his assistant Alfred Vail, honed in on the system of dots and dashes that became standard. Above, an early effort at that code, from around 1837, appears on the bottom line, labeled "2d For Letters."

Below, recent Pictures of the Day:

Image: Library of Congress.

Presented by

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her middle school. Then Humans of New York told her story to the Internet—and everything changed.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

More in Technology

Just In